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rest. And these differences, based as they are on the idiosyncrasies of human nature, will exhibit themselves in every church and in every age.
But these differences do not form the basis of antagonistic sects; each is consistent and compatible with the others. Like the parts of a noble structure, each has some peculiar use and grace, but all are needed to form the whole of perfect symmetry and beauty. In the healthy human frame the heart has no quarrel with the lungs, the brain is not in antagonism to the skull, the arteries to the veins, or the muscles to the nerves; each has a distinct place and function, and the strength of the whole results from the harmonious activity of the parts. Variety and difference, therefore, so far from being in themselves evil or incompatible with harmony and consistency, constitute the very elements of beauty and fitness.
But this truth still leaves it necessary for us to affirm that the differences which characterise the sects of these times, are wholly incompatible with the harmony and consistency of the church of which they form the parts. They stand forth as antagonists, and cannot be harmonised. They contradict, and are mutually destructive.
And though we may greatly admire the excellent disposition of those who endeavour to persuade the world that these radical differences are not utterly antagonistic, we can scarcely accord to their soundness of judgment the admiration due to their kindly intentions. Indeed, it is simply impossible to accept contradictory propositions as true. And who, in this bitter logomachy of creeds, has not witnessed with wonder how, from the same sacred Scriptures, men professedly draw opinions which can no more all be true than Black and white and red can all be the same colour! Babel was scarcely more prolific in differences of language than is our own age in varieties of religious opinion. Men are divided by them, and each to the other is unintelligible. Now and again some new and portentous phenomenon, like Mormonism in our own day, makes us aware that the number of the sects has not yet received its last addition. Amidst the multiplicity of conflicting opinions, we are daily becoming more confused; yet all these streams of doctrine, so different in taste and colour, are said to flow from the same fountain. Thus, one large section of the church discovers in the Word that the Divine Being is tri-personal, and yet that the three persons into which he is divided are not three gods. Another professes to discover that God is one, but also that the Lord Jesus Christ is not that God. Calvinism affirms that it finds there predestination and election ; others that grace is free. The Pope declares that he discovers in its pages the proof of his vicegerentship and infallibility; and Protestants,
the evidence that he is anti-Christ. Nor would it be time well spent to name all the sects, large and small, who find their peculiarity to be the one important doctrine announced in the Divine Volume. And thus the war of theological dogmas goes on; and, as the years pass, the combatants increase and the strife thickens. The larger sectarian divisions have their smaller sub-divisions; and each hostile camp is itself the prey
to intestine discord. Churches that seem externally united, are internally torn asunder. What may be the predominant opinion in the Established Church of England, at this day, who can tell! Under cover of the same Articles, we have Puseyism only not papal; Calvinism and Arminianism, rigid orthodoxy, and a nondescript Latitudinarianism, -perhaps every form of religious belief that is now fighting for supremacy
in the battle of the creeds. But sectarianism is not the only indication that marks the weakness and decay of religion. To have opinions of some description is, at least, an evidence that religion still retains some hold upon the mind, if not upon the affections. That widely diffused indifferentism, which is patent to the eye of any close observer of the religious condition of society, is, we believe, a still more striking proof that the prevailing theological systems have widely failed to compel attention and reverence. That deeply earnest religious spirit which found no rest until faith was converted into fact and life, is not normal to the spirit of these times. Religion stands off too widely from life, from legislation, and from commerce, and fails to penetrate with its spirit the details of existence. Even in the quiet converse of social re-unions it is voted out, as by tacit consent. Politics, metaphysies, science, and art, are all more welcome matters of discourse than God, the soul, immortality, and heaven. News and personalities leave no room for such converse in society. Ministers, indeed, talk upon the subject professionally with their people, though not without a secret feeling that other topics would be preferred, and the latter in such case listen with a due formality. And despite the struggles of sectarian zeal to galvanise the dying spirit of religion into new life and vigour, the indifferentists are a constantly increasing number. True, they do not openly cast off the faith, and you cannot brand them with the name of heretic and infidel; but they wear their religious garb like any other that the custom of society has sanctionedsimply because it is so sanctioned. Break the chain with which custom binds so many to religious profession and observance, and how long would these outward concessions be made ? The indifferentists, in truth, though hitherto unnamed, form, perhaps, the largest sect in Christendom. Never having been roused to a sense of the true purpose of existence,-never having realised the full significance of the great topics with which religion is conversant, their worship is a form, and their lives, for all high ends, aimless. Those of them who are not absorbed in the pursuit of money or pleasure, find a resource for occupation and amusement in literature, art, philosophy, or politics. These have become to them a religion. They do not avow themselves antagonists to Christianity, but their conformity is very cold, and has altogether an air of concession to the prejudices of the time.
But even sectarianism and indifference, evidences though they be that the prevalent theology is neither so clear as to preclude antagonism in opinion, nor so strong as to prevent the heart being closed against its influence, do not constitute the whole proof of the practical inefficiency of the theological teaching of these times. Unbelief has raised its bold and irreverent front, eager to desolate the land of such faith as it has, though unable to offer a better substitute. It points triumphantly to sectarian division, and asks—“How can that be clear and true about which its professors are indefinitely divided ?" Its keen eye does not fail to discover the indifferentism prevalent among professed Christians, and asks for a proof of their sincerity in the steady and consistent application of their doctrines. It may be told that the character of persons does not affect the truth of principles, but how can it admit power to compel deep conviction in that which leaves doctrine and life in mutual opposition?
But unbelief affirms that the undoubted truths of science are in opposition to the theology of the churches. It arrays the facts and conclusions of geological science, the results of careful investigation and patient induction by able and impartial men, and demands the reconciliation of these with the Mosaic record of the Creation. Are science and revelation at war ? Do the truths inscribed in rocks, that cannot lie, contradict the teachings of the written Word, or is the Creator of the Universe other than the Giver of Revelation ? Must science fall, that the Scriptures may retain their assumed infallibility; or shall we admit their fallibility, that science may exist and fearlessly advance ? To these questions the intellect of these times demands an answer.
Again : it points to the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions found to exist in the Sacred Record itself. Consistency, it says, is the attribute of wisdom and a fortiori of Divine Wisdom. How, then, can that be Divine which in itself is inconsistent and contradictory? The book for which infallibility and plenary inspiration are claimed, it is further affirmed, is, in a large part, purely local and national in character, and has no meaning save for the people among whom it was written; it lacks that universality, that independence of times, places, and peoples which are the attributes of the highest wisdom, and cannot, therefore, be the utterance of Him whose wisdom is infinite. And they would indeed be grave objections, if well founded, that the impartial conclusions of science are in opposition to the teachings of the Scriptures; that these are temporary and local in their utterances, and have become in part obsolete and useless. Still, it must be admitted, that no effective answer has been given, or can be given, by the theological systems around us; and so the spirit of negation is diffused without effective check. It is not confined to rich or poor ; it pervades all ranks and classes of society. True it is, that even infidelity, in latter times, is greatly modified, and our feelings are no longer shocked by the coarseness of Paine or the sarcasms of Voltaire. We have now to contend with a keener and more subtle enemy. It attempts to discover in human consciousness the sufficient cause of Christian faith and practice. The Bible, it affirms, is a Hebrew book, to be classed among the highest efforts of human genius when that is inspired by religious feeling; but that we have now passed beyond it. These principles advance without effective hindrance; and daily additions are made to the number of those who, having found the sects incapable of satisfying the demands of the intellect and the heart, have drifted away before this stream of plausible fallacy.
And whence have arisen the sectarianism," indifference, and unbelief, the existence and character of which have been indicated ?
The will insinuates itself into every thought, word, and action. We may talk of impartial reason, wholly uninfluenced by feeling, and judging on a purely intellectual basis; but in actual life no such reason ever existed. We cannot disintegrate the elements of will and under-standing, nor is the independent action of either one or the other possible. It may be, indeed, that intellectual judgments can be formed without
any defivite consciousness that feeling has at all influenced the conclusions ; but none the less is the dominant affection of the heart openly or secretly present in every activity of life. The will is master of the intellect. We easily believe what we wish to be true; and that to which the feelings are opposed, gains slow and difficult access to the reason. Strong self-love will compel us to confirm and maintain every opinion once espoused, not because it is true, but because it is ours. Strong feelings can make the false appear true, and the true false, and compel the reason to support the paradox.
It would be wrong, therefore, to attribute the phenomena we bave
indicated to a purely intellectual origin. And it is more than a suspicion that a strong love of self and a desire for distinction, have often been the source of a new creed, or formed the nucleus of a new sect. Men love their opinions because they are their own, and magnify their special difference or peculiarity until it becomes, in their eyes, the vital principle of all religion. Possessed by themselves and their idea, they steadily close the mind against every principle that oppugns it, and catch with eagerness at everything that can yield, or be made to yield evidence in its favour. Such men bend the Bible to their creed, instead of gathering, with patience and humility, their creed from the Bible. Their Scriptures are included in a few texts; these are Eden--beyond is a wilderness. And thus it is that strong feelings and deep-rooted prejudices have too often forced the Word of God into the service of the creeds that now maintain a warfare for supremacy.
Nor is indifferentism wholly attributable to tủe feebleness and inconsistency of the prevalent theology. There is more than enough, even in the letter of the Word, to lead the soul to heaven that is earnestly desirous of being guided thither. But when the heart is chiefly animated by a love of worldly enjoyments, advantages, and honours --when all besides is subordinate, religion, speaking of higher ends, can scarcely be received with reverence and earnestness. The aspirations of the worldling are limited to this ball of earth, and his gods are power, wealth, and applause. Religion, sternly demanding that his idols be brokenthat he lift his soul from earth to higher things, does not find in him an open ear.
He loves his gods, they are himself, and he will not die that he may
live. And so he still wears his religion as an upper garment, but self, the world, and the senses are close to his heart.
And if it be said that unbelief springs not less from depravity of heart than from perversion of intellect, let not the affirmation be said to issue from want of charity. True it is that men are not seldom better than their opinions, and are often unaware of the logical consequences of their own views. But this premised, experience furnishes evidence that infidelity in theory is often the issue of infidelity in practice. “ The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” Pride, the first and strongest outgrowth of self-love, will be found near the roots of the rank and noxious weeds of unbelief. It does not willingly stoop to any for teaching, and loves to be the self-sufficient origin of its own opinions and beliefs. Perhaps no exhibition of self-love is more insidious than this. Under the guise of devotion to principle, it goes about to construct its own tower that shall reach to heaven, that it may glory in